Miter Saw vs. Table Saw (What Can a Miter Saw Do that a Table Saw Can’t?)


Whether you are looking to upgrade your current set of tools or brand new to woodworking, you might be considering the necessities. What can you get by without, and what is worth the investment? On the top of your list should be a table and miter saw.

While a table saw can cut wood at any length fed into its blade, a miter saw chops down to make an angled cut on wood as wide as its blade. The miter saw precisely angled cuts for professional-grade trim, framing, and other projects using a table saw, resulting in unevenness.

While you can still make miter cuts with a table saw, it is important to remember that the miter saw was created specifically for these angled cuts. So, if you are only doing one angled cut and use precision and safety, then sure, go ahead with your table saw. But, if you plan on making multiple angled cuts on your current and future projects, go ahead and invest in a miter saw. Fortunately, they are not too expensive, anyway. Continue reading to learn more.

What are the Differences between a Miter Saw and a Table Saw?

As you begin your woodworking adventure, particularly when reviewing a miter saw and a table saw, it is important to understand each tool’s key differences. In knowing this, you can make a more informed decision on whether or not your projects will require a miter saw or not.

So, what are the differences between a miter saw and a table saw? The miter saw is primarily designed to make angled cuts, whereas a table saw is designed to make straight cuts. While the table saw can be used to make miter cuts, this is not standard use. Additionally, the miter saw is easier to transport, moves to cut the wood, and costs less than a table saw.

Of course, determining whether each device is the right one for you or not will depend entirely on your skillset, budget, and projects that you have in mind. But, considering the precision that a miter saw can achieve in terms of angled cuts, it is worth looking into investing in this tool if you plan on making more than one angled cut. Let’s take a closer look at the key differences between a miter saw and a table saw.

Miter Saw vs. Table Saw: Angled Cuts

As stated above, the biggest difference between the miter saw and the table saw is what the miter saw was specifically designed to do. It is no shock that angled cuts are often referred to as miter cuts, considering it is the miter saw that professional woodworkers would use to achieve them. However, if you are new to the game, you might not understand what the hype is about a miter saw. After all, can you not just tilt your table saw?

While you can rig a table saw to make miter cuts, using the miter saw as it was designed will give you far more precise cuts and avoid the risk of injury that using a table saw in this way can otherwise yield.

A miter saw is designed to be pressed down at any angle you desire with the ease of swiveling the miter saw to set the particular angle. For example, if you are crafting the perfect trim for your new home, a miter saw can give you precisely angled cuts to make seamless matchups for the wood you are using on your trim.

You can use a miter saw to cut the angle of a small but wide piece of wood with relative ease. Additionally, since the wood will be held in place, you will not have to worry about jagged edges that can make your miter cuts look like amateur cuts. Instead, you will carefully move the miter saw while your wood remains unmoved, resulting in a clean cut.

The perfect opportunity to use a miter saw is when you are doing any frame or trim work in your home. Not only will you be able to cut the corner pieces, but you can also create an impeccable beveled edge with your miter saw. This will allow the pieces to slide together cohesively without messing with any jagged edges that could come from an unstable table saw.

As mentioned, you can rig a table saw to make miter cuts. And a huge benefit of using a table saw for angled cuts is that it can cut any wood length. But, realistically, when are you planning on cutting an angled cut larger than 8-12 inches (the average size of a miter saw blade)? More likely than not, this will not come up any time soon, so it should not be a concern.

Although a table saw can make longer miter cuts, it is riskier to skip the miter saw in this step.

To achieve miter cuts with a table saw, you would have to use miter gauges (which are known to be faulty) or use a sled. Still, the wood is not stationary, so you risk uneven edges unless you can perfect the ability to hold the wood steadily through the table saw. So, while the miter saw can provide safe, clean, and precise miter cuts, the table saw will have to be used with great caution and precision to achieve the same result.

Miter Saw vs. Table Saw: Transportable

If you are a woodworking professional, then you likely already own a miter saw. However, if you are an amateur, you might not know what you are missing out on by not having a miter saw (instead of using your table saw to try to achieve the same cuts). A miter saw is mainly advantageous compared to a table saw in that it can achieve precisely angled cuts, but it also has a few other advantages.

The ability to transport a miter saw is impressive compared to a stationary table saw. If you are planning to do most of your woodworking in your shop, you might not see why this would be a big deal. But, if you plan on doing woodworking anywhere else by your professional (or unprofessional) woodworking shop, then a miter saw is the way to go for angled cuts.

First, a miter saw is not as heavy as a table saw, considering it weighs roughly 50-60lbs. In addition to this, miter saws are not often set up to be stationary. While they will hold steady when completing their cutting tasks, a miter saw can be transported from place to place.

Although this might not always apply to amateur woodworkers, a professional will recognize the importance of taking his or her tools from job site to job site. For example, a professional framer would need to move his or her miter saw from home to home as he or she worked on each building project’s trim and framework.

So, instead of having to cut all of the wood in the workshop and then return to the shop each time a cut needs to be made, you can use a miter saw at each location and prevent the hassle of having to return to do your work in another place.

Miter Saw vs. Table Saw: Mobility

In addition to moving the miter saw from location to location compared with a table saw that is semi-permanent, it is important to talk about how each of these tools moves to cut various pieces of wood.

For instance, the miter saw swivels to the desired angle and then is moved downward, cutting a stationary piece of wood. The miter saw can cut as long as its blade is wide, so an 8inch miter saw blade can cut an 8inch board.

On the other hand, the table saw remains stationary while a piece of wood is pushed over the moving blade. Thus, the table saw is the part of the puzzle that remains stationary at this end. Because of this, a board of any length can be pushed over the working table saw blade resulting in a completed cut.

So, why does this matter in the functionality of your miter saw or the table saw? Realistically, this might make the table saw appear to have an advantage as it can cut any length of wood compared to a miter saw that is relatively limited. However, another key difference to note here is which part of the equation (the wood or the saw) is stationary when the wood is being cut?

The saw is moving with the miter saw while the wood remains perfectly stationary; with the table saw, the saw is stationary while the wood is moving. This means for angled cuts because the miter saw will remain perfectly aligned with the angle you have pre-set.

However, you could slip ever so slightly when pushing the wood through your table saw blade causing a slight mishap in the cut’s angle. In this case, your angle could be just off-angle enough to result in an unfortunate error and an inaccurate cut.

Miter Saw vs. Table Saw: Cost

If you are still on the fence about getting a miter saw, then you will be pleased to know that this device typically costs significantly less than the average table saw. While you might spend over $1,000 on a higher-end table saw (with some going even higher than $2,000), you can typically find a simple miter saw for less than $300. Even a higher-end miter saw will run less than $500.

So, if you are in limbo in your decision making because you are attempting to save a few bucks by rigging your table saw to make miter cuts, then you can consider the long term costs here and recognize that you might spend just as much making a sled for your table saw as you would on just buying a simple miter saw in the first place.

Should You Get a Miter Saw if You Own a Table Saw?

So, you recognize that a miter saw can cut precise, secure, and clean angled cuts are more mobile (in that it weighs less) and cost less than a table saw. But, for some reason, you are still not convinced that you need one. Realistically, this will come down to the projects and plans that you have for woodworking. Since this is a highly personal decision, you will want to weigh your options.

So, should you get a miter saw if you own a table saw? If you will only be making a few angled cuts and can build a sled for your table saw and use it with great precision and care, then you might skip the miter saw. But, if you plan to make more than a few miter cuts, it is best to invest in a miter saw for accuracy, precision, safety, and efficiency.

Again, this is important to remember that not every woodworker (or woodworker’s project) is the same, so telling someone what they should or should not get would not make any sense in the first place. But, since the miter saw has some real advantage in making precise angled cuts, it is of strong advantage to invest in one if you plan on doing this often (or even if you plan on making several cuts for a large project).

If you are doing a simple do-it-yourself project at home and are planning on making a beautiful wooden picture frame for a loved one, for example, then you might only need to make 4 angled cuts. With this in mind, you could likely rig your table saw to achieve the cuts you desire and then use a strap (band) clamp to fix the edges together.

In another scenario, if you have just recently moved into your fixer-upper and you are planning on installing gorgeous new trim, framework, or crown molding, for example, then you are sure to be making more than a few cuts. In this case, it is vital to invest in a miter saw, considering the number of cuts you are attempting and the precision that they will require.

In the first case, achieving accurate cuts for a picture frame is important but will ultimately not be the end of the world if your measurements are slightly off. Your loved one who receives the gift will pay more attention to your thoughtfulness than your woodworking, most likely.

However, in the second case, achieving accurate cuts for a home’s trim, framework, or crown molding is essential to maintaining a professional look and increasing the value of the home. In these two examples, you can see why the importance of accurate, precise cuts can matter (or not) and why you might want to consider investing in a tool (a miter saw) to provide this type of accuracy.

So, sure, if you own a table saw and are only planning on using it for a few miter cuts, then you might be able to use the table saw that you already own to achieve the results you are looking for. Of course, you will want to be extremely cautious, and you should consider reading this guide on making miter cuts with a table saw.

Nevertheless, if you own a table saw but are planning to make many miter cuts for your next woodworking project, then it is likely worth it to spend a little bit more upfront on a tool that will achieve the results you desire. Instead of spending the money on purchasing new wood (after you mess up the cuts with a table saw the first time), do it right and invest in a miter saw from the start.

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